“It was like, Jesus Christ, what a challenge,” says Sir Ridley Scott, sitting in a small room adjoining an Abbey Road soundstage. In the studio beside him – and accompanying his voice like a soundtrack on Yahoo’s tape recorder – is a huge orchestra bringing the music for biblical epic ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ to life.
“I really love creating universes,” continues the 76-year-old director, whose workload puts most 25-year-olds to shame. “Egyptian architecture and costume hasn’t really been done that much. The best of the best were the early Hollywood things where they had the money to throw at it and everything was built literally.”
In other words, the man who brought the world ‘Alien’ and ‘Blade Runner’ isn’t going to shirk on spectacle when it comes to his version of the Moses story, which stars Christian Bale as the great leader and Joel Edgerton as his adopted brother-cum-nemesis Ramses.
“I really was desperate to do the [parting of the] Red Sea,” he says.
The director is also reuniting with his ‘Alien’ heroine Sigourney Weaver, who plays Tuya, the Queen of Egypt, while ‘Breaking Bad’ star Aaron Paul is Joshua, one of the Hebrews who flee slavery.
For Scott, making the movie was an education – and one which he missed out on as a daydreaming young boy in north-east England.
“What I was stunned by was how I didn’t really pay attention at Sunday school at grammar school, or any RI classes whatsoever,” he admits, when recalling being asked to take a crack at the life of Moses. “Because I had no idea the breadth and width of this man’s life and purpose. How he lived this particular very long life under such pressure.”
Despite being a “pretty strong agnostic”, he was keen to make sure the film is accessible to people whether they believe in God and the Bible or not.
“I walked a fine line between not being modern – because I think that’s dangerous as well – but acknowledging where we are in 3000BC and making a film I would understand and see,” he says.
Next up for the director is ‘The Martian’ starring Matt Damon, about an astronaut stranded on the Red Planet.
He’s also in heavy development on ‘Blade Runner 2’ and the sequel to ‘Prometheus’. “We set up a lot of big questions,” he says of the latter. “Now you’ve got to answer them.”
As for after that, is there anything the director still wants to do?
He smiles. “I’d love to do a Western.”
'Exodus: Gods and Kings' is out on 26 December.
Photos: 20th Century Fox